Crash Bandicoot
Image: Universal

While he perhaps hasn't achieved the same degree of fame as Sonic and Mario, one-time PlayStation mascot Crash Bandicoot remains one of gaming's most popular icons – and the composer behind the music in some of his earliest adventures has been speaking about the song that "locked in" the original game's infectiously appealing soundtrack.

Speaking to The Guardian, Josh Mancell recalls how tricky it was to find the sonic identity of the character in his 1996 debut outing on PS1. "As I was working on the game, I was definitely throwing stuff against the wall to see what would stick," he says. Initially focused on creating an "experimental" score, Mancell found that, when scoring the eighth level, Hog Wild, he finally found the sound that fitted Crash.

"Hog Wild was such a turning point, especially in terms of the feedback I was getting on the music," he continues. "I was getting pointed in the direction of doing more of an ‘experimental’ score – all percussion and ambience, you know? Environmental sounds, things like that. And I think that the reaction was split, let’s say. The Hog Wild music was more … I don’t want to say Universal, as a pun … but it was more comical. People laughed at it, and it started to feel as if there was more of a positive reaction. It didn’t sound like Mario music, but it sounded like its own version of that; more animated, more character-driven."

Mancell likens the tone of Hog Wild to that of the music which would accompany cartoon shows. "[Hog Wild] was the eye-opener," he says. "That was when I started to see what the game was looking like: you’re playing a cartoon, you’re a character in a cartoon. The guy that designed the characters had some involvement in Looney Tunes, right? Charles Zembillas brought that sensibility to the game before I even stepped in."

Mancell would work on Crash Bandicoot 2: Cortex Strikes Back, Crash Bandicoot: Warped and Crash Team Racing, as well as Jak and Daxter: The Precursor Legacy, Jak II and Jak 3. He received Emmy Award nominations for his work on Clifford the Big Red Dog in the early 2000s and has created scores for movies such as Bongwater, Chuck & Buck and Love Comes to the Executioner.